My friend and legislative representative, Jared Olsen, woke up a couple days ago to find that some coward had left flyers on his lawn bearing a hateful anti-Semitic message.
Its important to note that whoever is responsible did their work under the cover of darkness, anonymously, and without the courage of conviction to take responsibility. That is how purveyors of this slime operate.
How are we, as Wyoming citizens, to react when hate and animus like this smears itself across the face of our communities? When some dark, secretive element among our citizenry expresses hate for our fellow Wyomingites, how should we respond?
This is nothing new. Similar outpourings of hate have been directed against gay folks, immigrants, people of color and other minorities among us for years. But its about damn time that we, as citizens of the Equality State, do something about it.
The temptation is to stifle that sort of outburst, to silence haters so they can’t decorate our lawns with their festering screeds, paste them on telephone poles or plaster them on our schoolhouse walls. But the First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression, even when what is expressed deeply offends us and every value we hold dear.
To characterize hate expressed against a segment of our society by another segment as simply political expression, gnarly to be sure, but political expression nonetheless is wrong. But some will do exactly that whenever this crap happens.
Hate speech goes beyond the rough-and-tumble rhetoric of politics. It drops off the edge into that dark abyss of the human mind that fears anyone who looks or behaves differently. It expresses the primitive nature within us that we had to overcome to live civilly together.
But, unless hate speech advocates and provokes violent action, it is protected by the same Constitution that allows me to write this column. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, what do we do when hate speech appears in Wyoming? When that has happened in the past, we have clutched our pearls and claimed, “Well, that’s just a few bad apples. They don’t speak for all of us.” And then we have gone about our business.
Here’s my challenge to you. If, as we claim, the voices of hate are few among us, then we need to collectively stand up on our hind legs in the public square and say so. If we can’t silence speech of that stripe, we can sure as hell drown the sumbitches out with our own strong Cowboy State voice.
Counter hate speech with OUR speech!
Lets show the midnight haters and ourselves how few they actually are by raising our own voices against them. Loudly!
Don’t wait for the legislature to outlaw hate speech. Don’t wait for a Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on how we should purge hate from Wyoming. Do it yourself as a citizen, unless you agree with those cowardly midnight pamphleteers.
If hate speech in Wyoming sets your teeth on edge like it does mine, then say so. Write a letter to the editor when you see hate rear its hideous head, chime in during a town hall meeting to denounce hate as anathema to our Wyoming way of life.
It begins around your kitchen table with your family, and spreads to the coffeeshop with your friends. The counter-balance to hate must be nurtured, and then it grows. It is hundreds of thousands of Wyoming voices saying out loud, “I don’t hate”.
If hateful speech offends you, then express yourself. Stop being a silent majority.